On Panorama, from John Ware (dated 1st Dec 2010)

Dear Usama

Thanks for pointing this out. We were already aware that our Saudi undercover man was summarising what he was able to read at first glance
having just emerged from the weekend school. We then took the full text to Neal Robinson who put it in its proper context. He even went as far as to say that he personally would have been happy to teach this text but emphasised the importance of taking great care over it, in a way that the Saudi text book has not.

Here’s the relevant part of the film:


Saudi officials often complain these are Qu’uranic passages taken out of their historical context.

So we showed the lesson to an academic known internationally for his expertise on the Qur’an.


Q: “Is it wise to draw the attention of children to these passages?

A: I would do it, but I would spend a long lesson talking round this. To present it cold as it seems to be here just part of the teaching of Islam, no it’s not wise.

In the wrong hands I think it is, yes, ammunition for anti-Semitism.”

Furthermore, when we showed the passage in its full and accurate context
to Michael Gove he was clear that this text was unnacceptable in a British classroom.


“You could have a long theological argument in which you say um, that these things should be seen in an historical context. Fair enough, that’s a matter for other countries. To my mind it doesn’t seem to me that this is the sort of material that er, should be used in English schools.”

Whilst I accept there is a difference between Jews who “look like monkeys … etc” (Our Saudi U/C’s translation) and Jews being “transformed into apes” I’m not sure this difference constitutes what you have described as a “major mistake.”

It’s also important to set this passage into the context of the Saudi national curriculum as a whole. For example, as we set out in the film, the same text book asks children to list what it describes as “the reprehensible qualities of the Jews.”

It is because several speakers (e.g. Sheikh Hussein Yee, Sheikh Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais, Sheikh Ibrahim Mudeiris, Sheikh Muhammad Al-Saleh Al-‘Athimein to name but some) have adapted the historical texts referring to apes and pigs to make racist remarks about Jews today – likening Jews metaphorically to apes, and sometimes even literally – that Prof Robinson emphasised that unless taught in the right hands, the passages are fuel for anti Semitism. Presumably this also explains why the Secretary of State concurred and said that it was better not to have them in any British classroom.

In any event, as you can see, in the commentary we dealt squarely with
the view – as advanced by the Saudi ambassador – that such texts can be taken out of their historical context, though in this case we do not accept that we did because of the nature of the questions to the children at the end of the lesson. It seems to us and others that the questions were designed to have a contemporary relevance.

This is further butressed by other parts of the Saudi curriculum where, (as you yourself acknowledged in the translations you kindly did for us), there are racist references to Jews where no “historical” or “contextual” claim could possibly be made because the passages refer to 19th, 20th and 21st century. For example, in Grade 10 Students are told
that Zionists are plotting to take over the world for Jews, with 15 year old Saudi schoolchildren being taught that the “plot” continues to the present day. There are “many proofs” of the Protocols’ “veracity” the text book says.

That said, I’d like to put on record Usama how genuinely grateful we are to you for your important contribution, your generous time and your advice.

With every good wish



One Response to “On Panorama, from John Ware (dated 1st Dec 2010)”

  1. Ameen Says:

    Re: “Whilst I accept there is a difference between Jews who “look like monkeys … etc” (Our Saudi U/C’s translation) and Jews being “transformed into apes” I’m not sure this difference constitutes what you have described as a “major mistake.””

    – The word ‘Jews’ doesn’t even appear in the verses!

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